Sreya stood in the doorway, taking in the sight of her. She was as beautiful now as she’d ever been to him, and he knew in that moment that he still loved her, that he could never stop loving her.
Her emotions surged over him, threatening to entwine with his. It was a mixture of relief, betrayal, loss, gladness, and something else. Sreya focused on that kernel until he knew what it was: uncertainty.
She reached up as if to stroke her copper strands of hair, and Sreya couldn’t help but smile. From the day they’d met, she’d known how her hair had caught his attention, and would always play it up when she was uncertain of his affection.
He smiled nostalgically, and he smiled with hope.
“Lilandra,” he started, and then stopped. He had no idea what to say to her. A thousand times he’d dreamt of finding her, and yet was not prepared to speak. Nothing seemed adequate.
She smiled back at him, probably sensing his own emotions. It was almost as if they were replaying the first day they’d met.
But that wasn’t right. It was like a familiar dream that wasn’t playing out the way it was supposed to. There was something else here, something else that was not present on that first day. Something dark…
“Do you know why I brought you here, Sreya?” she asked as her smile seemed to turn ominous.
The hope he felt began to sink. “Brought me here?”
She nodded slowly. “I’ve missed you. And I wanted us to be together.”
Sreya swallowed, uncertainty now playing out on him. “We still can, come back with me to Tython, we can get help for you.”
“No,” she said, shaking her head. “That way is closed. Even if they could help me, I don’t want it.” She started jabbing herself on her forehead with her fingers. “I’ve seen what they did to you, the lights are too bright to see the darkness, I can never forgive them for that.”
“Lilandra, please, you know that’s not true,” he felt like a fist had clenched his heart and was pulling it down with all its might as a gnawing doubt crept into his thoughts. “You’ve seen everything that’s ever happened to me, you must know that there were some who helped me, healed me.”
“There was one,” she answered, “and she was sent away to her death!”
“We don’t know that she’s dead,” he said, ruthlessly pushing down the memories of the only Jedi who had seen past what he had turned into and allowed him to become what he wanted to be.
Lilandra lifted her chin in resentment, ignoring his answer. “She’s not the only one who will be one with the Force after today.”
“Lilandra, I won’t fight you.”
She smiled again, and Sreya was reminded of the smile he had once thought he could never live without. “No, silly boy, not you. I could never lift a finger to hurt you.”
Sreya allowed his confusion to show. “Then who? Lilandra, you’re not going to…” he trailed off, fear now desperately fighting for more than a foothold in his heart. He would not let her hurt herself, not when he was now so close to getting her back.
Once more her smile soured on him. “Oh no, when I said I wanted us to be together again, I didn’t mean in the afterlife.”
Sreya didn’t answer, waiting for her to continue.
“I can’t go back with you to Tython, regardless of whether or not the Council would allow me to return, I want nothing to do with them. So the sun will set, and the new moon will rise to join the second.
“Sreya, you feel these emotions, you cannot deny them. Let them wash over you, remember our love, and feel the outrage at what the Order has done to us, done to you!”
His shoulders slumped ever so slightly. “So this is your play? You want to turn me to the Dark Side?” His voice caught a little in his throat. Were the years he’d spent searching for her in vain? “Perhaps you don’t know me as well as I thought you did.”
She stared at him, somehow managing to simultaneously seethe with rage while tears began to well in her eyes.
“If you won’t let the memory of our love cleanse you of the apathy the Order has instilled upon you, then what will the death of your Padawan do to you?”
Sreya tensed. “Lilandra, what have you done?”
“The Cathar in the room you came from. He’s not a prisoner like the old one. He’s my…” she paused, as if trying out the word before speaking it. “He’s my apprentice. And he has very explicit instructions.”
Narrowing his eyes, he asked her, “Why are you telling me this?”
She appeared content. “Because death is a singular experience, but the fear of death lasts a lifetime. You’ll go race to save your Padawan now, and I don’t doubt that you will, but you know that I won’t stop there, that I won’t stop with him.”
Her stance became aggressive; the tone of her speech seemed to crescendo. “Everyone you know, everyone you care about, everyone you fear for, I will pursue. I will lash out with every last ounce of my strength. Some I will destroy, some I will leave alive, charred and broken husks of what they were.
“And you will live in terror. Never knowing where I’m going to strike next, the waves will never stop crashing along the shore until at last the core is revealed. You will embrace who you really are, and then, at last, we will truly be together.”
“So I give you the chance to strike me down now,” she continued relentlessly, “knowing that you won’t take it, and that you’ll live in agony. The agony of knowing you could have prevented everything that’s about to happen, could have spared yourself the fear for your friends, and forever wondering if you could have handled the grief that killing me would have brought you.”
“Now go,” she commanded. “Save your padawan. We will meet again.”
And he ran.